15 Films to See This Week: Hal Hartley, James B. Harris, Max Ophlus + More

From IFC Center and BAM  to Film Forum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, check out the 15 films to see this week around the city.

**MONDAY, MARCH 30**

AMERICA, D.W. Griffith
Film Forum

(1924) Griffith’s epic of the American Revolution, complete with Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s Ride, and Carol Dempster, until Neil Hamilton has to make a tough moral decision, even as Lionel Barrymore’s Captain Walter Butler (historical turncoat and renegade) steals the show. Approx. 140 min. 35mm.

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THE ADVENTURES OF JUAN QUIN QUIN, Julio García Espinosa
BAM

This infectiously picaresque parody chronicles the comic escapades of Juan Quin Quin (Martínez) as he goes from altar boy to farmer to bullfighter to revolutionary in pre-Castro Cuba. Laced with playful reflexive touches—spoofs of every movie genre imaginable, cartoon thought bubbles over characters’ heads, tongue-in-cheek intertitles—this breezy, comic book-style adventure was the most popular Cuban film of its era.

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ALEXANDER MACKENDRICK’S ‘A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA’, Alexander Mackendrick
Anthology Film Archives

A rare instance of a great work of literature whose Hollywood adaptation is a masterpiece in its own right, A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA is based on the 1929 novel by Richard Hughes, a peerlessly entertaining high-seas tale that is both a delightful children’s adventure story and a disturbing portrait of youthful destructiveness. No one could have been better suited to film Hughes’s novel than Alexander Mackendrick, whose versatility and deft handling of tone had already been amply demonstrated by his work making classic (often dark) comedies for England’s legendary Ealing Studios (THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, THE LADYKILLERS) as well as the caustic SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, one of the greatest films to emerge from 1950s Hollywood. Mackendrick nails both the rollicking enjoyment of Hughes’s novel, as well as its increasingly dark undertones, which deepen but never interfere with the ebullient storytelling. HIGH WIND tells the story of a group of British children whose return from colonial Jamaica hits a major snag when they’re inadvertently captured by a band of pirates led by Anthony Quinn and first-mate James Coburn. What appears at first to be a story of vulnerable innocents in danger slowly but surely transforms into a much more complicated, subversive portrait of childhood, as the kids’ ruthlessly anarchic spirit shifts the power dynamic in their favor.

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**TUESDAY, MARCH 31**

HENRY FOOL, Hal Hartley
IFC Center

“Looser, more expansive and certainly more scatological than Hartley’s earlier work, this very funny, finally touching fable focuses on the way Henry Fool (Ryan) – a bawdy, rebellious, intellectually gifted drifter, and quite possibly a charlatan – transforms the lives of the inhabitants of a small town: notably, shy, put-upon Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), who under Fool’s auspices becomes both celebrated as a writer and demonised as a pornographer; his promiscuous sister (Posey) and depressive mother (Porter). For all its outrageous black humour, however, it remains a Hartley movie, with its wittily stylised dialogue, droll performances, crisp camerawork and its profoundly ironic musings on the nature of art and its status in society – musings which surely reflect on Hartley’s own status as an ambitious but marginalised film-maker.” – Time Out (London)

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FAY GRIM, Hal Hartley
IFC Center

“Hartley’s eight-years-on sequel to HENRY FOOL finds the abandoned wife (Posey) of the scumbag anti-hero of the earlier film trying to find out what became of him; as theories and revelations to his true identity, activities and whereabouts emerge, it posits a past for him that embraces and evokes political turmoil worldwide… There are good gags, nice turns from Goldblum and Ryan, and an excellent lead in the dependable Posey.” – Time Out (London)

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THE FIRST CHARGE OF THE MACHETE, Manuel Octavio Gomez
BAM

Cuban farmers turn their machetes against Spanish colonialists in this highly experimental recreation of an 1868 battle for independence. Told in a gritty, cinéma vérité style, The First Charge of the Machete uses swirling handheld camerawork, authentically aged-looking, high-contrast black and white photography, and pseudo-documentary interviews with participants to create the impression of an artifact unearthed.

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FLAHERTY NYC: PROGRAM 6: THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES: IRENE LUSZTIG, Irene Lusztig
Anthology Film Archives

Irene Lusztig’s film, THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES, explores the history of efforts to discipline and control the body of pregnant women. Lusztig spent five years assembling an extraordinary archive of over 100 educational, industrial, and medical training films and, in her inimitable style, editing this material into THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES, a hidden history of childbirth in the twentieth century. Through the process, Lusztig highlights the uncomfortable and little-discussed ambivalence that many women feel about producing children, those most precious of objects.

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**WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1**

SOME CALL IT LOVING, James B. Harris
BAM

In Harris’ dreamlike, erotic puzzle film, a melancholic jazz musician (King) purchases a real life Sleeping Beauty (Farrow) from a carnival sideshow and whisks her away to his Gothic pleasure palace. Adding to the strangeness, the inimitable Richard Pryor appears in a remarkably twitchy turn as a rambling junkie jazz cat. “Unmissable for anyone with an open mind and a sense of cinematic adventure” (Time Out London).

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THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, Josef von Sternberg
MoMA

1935. USA. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Screenplay by John Dos Passos, Sam Winston, based on the novel The Woman and the Puppet by Pierre Louys. With Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero, Edward Everett Horton. 80 min.

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THE MORE THE MERRIER, George Stevens
MoMA

1943. USA. Directed by George Stevens. Screenplay by Robert Russell, Frank Ross, Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, from a story by Russell and Ross. With Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, Richard Gaines, Bruce Bennett. The wartime housing shortage in Washington, D.C., forces government worker Jean Arthur to share her small Georgetown apartment with McCrea, an army officer awaiting reassignment, and Charles Coburn, a cantankerous consultant who acts both as chaperone (for the Production Code) and Cupid (for the rest of us) to the young couple. McCrea’s easygoing delivery finds directorial reinforcement from George Stevens, who allows whole scenes (including the famous front stoop seduction) to ramble on with happy abandon. 104 min.

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FROM MAYERLING TO SARAJEVO, Max Ophuls
Film Forum

(1940) In the wake of the murder-suicide of Prince Rudolph at Mayerling, John Lodge’s stiff, but broad-minded Archduke Franz Ferdinand becomes the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian empire, to the distinct unhappiness of its emperor, Franz Josef. But then Franz Ferdinand wants to marry Edwige Feuillère, a mere countess – and a Czech! In Ophüls’ romantically aristocratic world you know where you stand when the morgantically (their children can’t inherit) married couple are about the arrive at their first imperial ball together; a functionary murmurs Feuillère must use the Minor Stairs. Made in France and premiering just before it fell to the Nazis, this was Ophüls’ last picture before Hollywood and a surprisingly faithful, and lavishly produced, account of a Romeo and Juliet passion hindered not by family enmity, but by levels of nobility, a way of life to be wiped out by the events then only 25 years in the past – the same distance in time we have to the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Historical footnote: This would be the last film of American actor Lodge – of the Boston Lodges; he’d been co-star to Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Shirley Temple before eventually becoming congressman and governor of Connecticut, as well as U.S. ambassador to Spain, Argentina, and Switzerland). Approx. 97 min. 35mm.

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**THURSDAY, APRIL 2**

WOJCIECH BAKOWSKI: SOLILOQUIES, Wojciech Bakowski
Anthology Film Archives

“This is the first New York retrospective of Polish visual artist, musician, and poet Wojciech Bąkowski, whose camera-less films and animated video works explore the disturbance, absurdity, and pathos of human existence. Bąkowski’s dry but lyrical and, at times, grotesquely humorous monologues bring to light the ways in which we struggle to perceive reality. He reacts to his surroundings without evaluating them, but describes his inner landscape – the states of his thought and spirit. His work employs minimalist but laborious means of production, and takes on Optical-kinetic Art abstraction: moving patterns, warping geometric forms, animated objects, and reversible perspectives. Cellphones, clocks, magnetic tapes, cassette recorders, and trains become distorted, tyrannical noises that incisively permeate the private space. The austerity of a Bauhaus and Vkhutemas (the Soviet-era art and technical school) approach to aesthetic and socio-economic design and intellectualism pervades Bąkowski’s ‘degenerate art.’ The lack of emotion and intonation in his voice, the pauses, and the inexorable image-sound repetitions are doomed signs of metaphysical and political fate. With dismayed breath, he hopes for the creation of a new world built upon social interconnectivity, and the essential role of memory. The program combines a representative selection of his collage-films, which emphasize boredom as a transgressive attitude, and of his SPOKEN MOVIE series – Moholy-Nagy-like videos that represent personal experiences at the edge of a mental space where light and darkness collide.” –Mónica Savirón

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THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE, Walerian Borowczyk
Film Society of Lincoln Center

Taking its cue from the legend that Robert Louis Stevenson’s cocaine-fueled first draft of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was burned by his prudish American wife on account of its sexual excess, Borowczyk sets up a chamber piece spanning just one night, in which Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) plunges into a bath of chemicals only for him to emerge as the monstrously endowed Mr. Hyde. A masterpiece of surrealist cinema, Borowczyk’s film mischievously flits between violent farce, bloody delirium, and erotic frenzy. Note: contains explicit sexual content.

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A DAZZLING IMAGINATION, Walerian Borowczyk
Film Society of Lincoln Center

This program of documentaries—all directed by series co-curator Daniel Bird—sheds light on the life and sui generis career of Borowczyk, ranging from his early animations, his erotic feature films, and his artwork beyond the realm of cinema. An edifying portrait of Borowczyk not just as a pioneering animator and a wildly imaginative stylist but also as an utterly unique and versatile artist.

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A FILM UNFINISHED, Yael Hersonski
MoMA

2010. Germany/Israel. Directed by Yael Hersonski. In May 1942, just two months before the commencement of deportations to Treblinka, German cameramen entered the Warsaw Ghetto to film staged vignettes with its Jewish residents, alternatively portraying them as vile, dirty animals, or as greedy, selfish money grubbers. Either way, the images made amply clear that the Jews were a pestilence to be exterminated. After the war, several reels of this unfinished “documentary” were discovered buried in a film vault; remarkably, a missing reel was unearthed decades later. Israeli director Hersonski offers a sober and methodical vivisection of the Nazi footage, setting it in stark contrast to the harrowing reality of life and death in the Ghetto. Holocaust survivors, along with readings from diaries of people who were there (as well as testimony from a Nazi cameraman), establish the truth behind the fictionalized images. In Hebrew; English subtitles. 89 min.

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ALICE’S HOUSE, Chico Teixeira
MoMA

2007. Brazil. Written and directed by Chico Teixeira. With Carla Ribas. In a working-class district of São Paulo, Alice, a fortyish manicurist, lives in a cramped apartment with her unfeeling taxi-driver husband of more than 20 years, two of her three adult sons, and her elderly mother. Tempted to have an affair with the husband of one of her clients, and suspicious of her own husband’s fidelity, she lets her tumultuous thoughts provide grist for dreamy fantasies. Carla Ribas’s effortless, earthy performance anchors this compassionate look at ordinary people’s extraordinary buoyancy in the face of daily disappointments. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 94 min.

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